Arrays

Unconstrained Arrays

In the Introduction to Ada course, we've seen that we can declare array types whose bounds are not fixed: in that case, the bounds are provided when creating objects of those types. For example:

package Measurement_Defs is type Measurements is array (Positive range <>) of Float; -- ^ Bounds are of type Positive, -- but not known at this point. end Measurement_Defs;
with Ada.Text_IO; use Ada.Text_IO; with Measurement_Defs; use Measurement_Defs; procedure Show_Measurements is M : Measurements (1 .. 10); -- ^ Providing bounds here! begin Put_Line ("First index: " & M'First'Image); Put_Line ("Last index: " & M'Last'Image); end Show_Measurements;

In this example, the Measurements array type from the Measurement_Defs package is unconstrained. In the Show_Measurements procedure, we declare a constrained object (M) of this type.

The Introduction to Ada course also highlights the fact that the bounds are fixed once an object is declared:

Although different instances of the same unconstrained array type can have different bounds, a specific instance has the same bounds throughout its lifetime. This allows Ada to implement unconstrained arrays efficiently; instances can be stored on the stack and do not require heap allocation as in languages like Java.

In the Show_Measurements procedure above, once we declare M, its bounds are fixed for the whole lifetime of M. We cannot add another component to this array. In other words, M will have 10 components for its whole lifetime.

Unconstrained Arrays vs. Vectors

If you need, however, the flexibility of increasing the length of an array, you could use vectors instead. This is how we could rewrite the previous example using vectors:

with Ada.Containers; use Ada.Containers; with Ada.Containers.Vectors; package Measurement_Defs is package Vectors is new Ada.Containers.Vectors (Index_Type => Positive, Element_Type => Float); subtype Measurements is Vectors.Vector; end Measurement_Defs;
with Ada.Text_IO; use Ada.Text_IO; with Measurement_Defs; use Measurement_Defs; procedure Show_Measurements is use Measurement_Defs.Vectors; M : Measurements := To_Vector (10); -- ^ Creating 10-element vector. begin Put_Line ("First index: " & M.First_Index'Image); Put_Line ("Last index: " & M.Last_Index'Image); Put_Line ("Adding element..."); M.Append (1.0); Put_Line ("First index: " & M.First_Index'Image); Put_Line ("Last index: " & M.Last_Index'Image); end Show_Measurements;

In the declaration of M in this example, we're creating a 10-element vector by calling To_Vector and specifying the element count. Later on, with the call to Append, we're increasing the length of the M to 11 elements.

As you might expect, the flexibility of vectors comes with a price: every time we add an element that doesn't fit in the current capacity of the vector, the container has to reallocate memory in the background due to that new element. Therefore, arrays are more efficient, as the memory allocation only happens once for each object.

Multidimensional Arrays

So far, we've discussed unidimensional arrays, since they are very common in Ada. However, Ada also supports multidimensional arrays using the same facilities as for unidimensional arrays. For example, we can use the First, Last, Range and Length attributes for each dimension of a multidimensional array. This section presents more details on this topic.

To create a multidimensional array, we simply separate the ranges of each dimension with a comma. The following example presents the one-dimensional array A1, the two-dimensional array A2 and the three-dimensional array A3:

package Multidimensional_Arrays_Decl is A1 : array (1 .. 10) of Float; A2 : array (1 .. 5, 1 .. 10) of Float; -- ^ first dimension -- ^ second dimension A3 : array (1 .. 2, 1 .. 5, 1 .. 10) of Float; -- ^ first dimension -- ^ second dimension -- ^ third dimension end Multidimensional_Arrays_Decl;

The two-dimensional array A2 has 5 components in the first dimension and 10 components in the second dimension. The three-dimensional array A3 has 2 components in the first dimension, 5 components in the second dimension, and 10 components in the third dimension. Note that the ranges we've selected for A1, A2 and A3 are completely arbitrary. You may select ranges for each dimension that are the most appropriate in the context of your application. Also, the number of dimensions is not limited to three, so you could declare higher-dimensional arrays if needed.

We can use the Length attribute to retrieve the length of each dimension. We use an integer value in parentheses to specify which dimension we're referring to. For example, if we write A'Length (2), we're referring to the length of the second dimension of a multidimensional array A. Note that A'Length is equivalent to A'Length (1). The same equivalence applies to other array-related attributes such as First, Last and Range.

Let's use the Length attribute for the arrays we declared in the Multidimensional_Arrays_Decl package:

with Ada.Text_IO; use Ada.Text_IO; with Multidimensional_Arrays_Decl; use Multidimensional_Arrays_Decl; procedure Show_Multidimensional_Arrays is begin Put_Line ("A1'Length: " & A1'Length'Image); Put_Line ("A1'Length (1): " & A1'Length (1)'Image); Put_Line ("A2'Length (1): " & A2'Length (1)'Image); Put_Line ("A2'Length (2): " & A2'Length (2)'Image); Put_Line ("A3'Length (1): " & A3'Length (1)'Image); Put_Line ("A3'Length (2): " & A3'Length (2)'Image); Put_Line ("A3'Length (3): " & A3'Length (3)'Image); end Show_Multidimensional_Arrays;

As this simple example shows, we can easily retrieve the length of each dimension. Also, as we've just mentioned, A1'Length is equal to A1'Length (1).

Let's consider an application where we make hourly measurements for the first 12 hours of the day, on each day of the week. We can create a two-dimensional array type called Measurements to store this data. Also, we can have three procedures for this array:

  • Show_Indices, which presents the indices (days and hours) of the two-dimensional array;

  • Show_Values, which presents the values stored in the array; and

  • Reset, which resets each value of the array.

This is the complete code for this application:

package Measurement_Defs is type Days is (Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun); type Hours is range 0 .. 11; subtype Measurement is Float; type Measurements is array (Days, Hours) of Measurement; procedure Show_Indices (M : Measurements); procedure Show_Values (M : Measurements); procedure Reset (M : out Measurements); end Measurement_Defs;
with Ada.Text_IO; use Ada.Text_IO; package body Measurement_Defs is procedure Show_Indices (M : Measurements) is begin Put_Line ("---- Indices ----"); for D in M'Range (1) loop Put (D'Image & " "); for H in M'First (2) .. M'Last (2) - 1 loop Put (H'Image & " "); end loop; Put_Line (M'Last (2)'Image); end loop; end Show_Indices; procedure Show_Values (M : Measurements) is package H_IO is new Ada.Text_IO.Integer_IO (Hours); package M_IO is new Ada.Text_IO.Float_IO (Measurement); procedure Set_IO_Defaults is begin H_IO.Default_Width := 5; M_IO.Default_Fore := 1; M_IO.Default_Aft := 2; M_IO.Default_Exp := 0; end Set_IO_Defaults; begin Set_IO_Defaults; Put_Line ("---- Values ----"); Put (" "); for H in M'Range (2) loop H_IO.Put (H); end loop; New_Line; for D in M'Range (1) loop Put (D'Image & " "); for H in M'Range (2) loop M_IO.Put (M (D, H)); Put (" "); end loop; New_Line; end loop; end Show_Values; procedure Reset (M : out Measurements) is begin M := (others => (others => 0.0)); end Reset; end Measurement_Defs;
with Measurement_Defs; use Measurement_Defs; procedure Show_Measurements is M : Measurements; begin Reset (M); Show_Indices (M); Show_Values (M); end Show_Measurements;

We recommend that you spend some time analyzing this example. Also, we'd like to highlight the following aspects:

  • We access a value from a multidimensional array by using commas to separate the index values within the parentheses. For example: M (D, H) allows us to access the value on day D and hour H from the multidimensional array M.

  • To loop over the multidimensional array M, we write for D in M'Range (1) loop and for H in M'Range (2) loop for the first and second dimensions, respectively.

  • To reset all values of the multidimensional array, we use an aggregate with this form: (others => (others => 0.0)).

Unconstrained Multidimensional Arrays

Previously, we've discussed unconstrained arrays for the unidimensional case. It's possible to declare unconstrained multidimensional arrays as well. For example:

package Multidimensional_Arrays_Decl is type F1 is array (Positive range <>) of Float; type F2 is array (Positive range <>, Positive range <>) of Float; type F3 is array (Positive range <>, Positive range <>, Positive range <>) of Float; end Multidimensional_Arrays_Decl;

Here, we're declaring the one-dimensional type F1, the two-dimensional type F2 and the three-dimensional type F3.

As is the case with unidimensional arrays, we must specify the bounds when declaring objects of unconstrained multidimensional array types:

with Ada.Text_IO; use Ada.Text_IO; with Multidimensional_Arrays_Decl; use Multidimensional_Arrays_Decl; procedure Show_Multidimensional_Arrays is A1 : F1 (1 .. 2); A2 : F2 (1 .. 4, 10 .. 20); A3 : F3 (2 .. 3, 1 .. 5, 1 .. 2); begin Put_Line ("A1'Length (1): " & A1'Length (1)'Image); Put_Line ("A2'Length (1): " & A2'Length (1)'Image); Put_Line ("A2'Length (2): " & A2'Length (2)'Image); Put_Line ("A3'Length (1): " & A3'Length (1)'Image); Put_Line ("A3'Length (2): " & A3'Length (2)'Image); Put_Line ("A3'Length (3): " & A3'Length (3)'Image); end Show_Multidimensional_Arrays;

Arrays of arrays

It's important to distinguish between multidimensional arrays and arrays of arrays. Both are supported in Ada, but they're very distinct from each other. We can create an array of an array by first specifying a one-dimensional array type T1, and then specifying another one-dimensional array type T2 where each component of T2 is of T1 type:

package Array_Of_Arrays_Decl is type T1 is array (Positive range <>) of Float; type T2 is array (Positive range <>) of T1 (1 .. 10); -- ^ bounds must be set! end Array_Of_Arrays_Decl;

Note that, in the declaration of T2, we must set the bounds for the T1 type. This is a major difference to multidimensional arrays, which allow for unconstrained ranges in multiple dimensions.

We can rewrite the previous application for measurements using arrays of arrays. This is the adapted code:

package Measurement_Defs is type Days is (Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun); type Hours is range 0 .. 11; subtype Measurement is Float; type Hourly_Measurements is array (Hours) of Measurement; type Measurements is array (Days) of Hourly_Measurements; procedure Show_Indices (M : Measurements); procedure Show_Values (M : Measurements); procedure Reset (M : out Measurements); end Measurement_Defs;
with Ada.Text_IO; use Ada.Text_IO; package body Measurement_Defs is procedure Show_Indices (M : Measurements) is begin Put_Line ("---- Indices ----"); for D in M'Range loop Put (D'Image & " "); for H in M (D)'First .. M (D)'Last - 1 loop Put (H'Image & " "); end loop; Put_Line (M (D)'Last'Image); end loop; end Show_Indices; procedure Show_Values (M : Measurements) is package H_IO is new Ada.Text_IO.Integer_IO (Hours); package M_IO is new Ada.Text_IO.Float_IO (Measurement); procedure Set_IO_Defaults is begin H_IO.Default_Width := 5; M_IO.Default_Fore := 1; M_IO.Default_Aft := 2; M_IO.Default_Exp := 0; end Set_IO_Defaults; begin Set_IO_Defaults; Put_Line ("---- Values ----"); Put (" "); for H in M (M'First)'Range loop H_IO.Put (H); end loop; New_Line; for D in M'Range loop Put (D'Image & " "); for H in M (D)'Range loop M_IO.Put (M (D) (H)); Put (" "); end loop; New_Line; end loop; end Show_Values; procedure Reset (M : out Measurements) is begin M := (others => (others => 0.0)); end Reset; end Measurement_Defs;
with Measurement_Defs; use Measurement_Defs; procedure Show_Measurements is M : Measurements; begin Reset (M); Show_Indices (M); Show_Values (M); end Show_Measurements;

Again, we recommend that you spend some time analyzing this example and comparing it to the previous version that uses multidimensional arrays. Also, we'd like to highlight the following aspects:

  • We access a value from an array of arrays by specifying the index of each array separately. For example: M (D) (H) allows us to access the value on day D and hour H from the array of arrays M.

  • To loop over an array of arrays M, we write for D in M'Range loop for the first level of M and for H in M (D)'Range loop for the second level of M.

  • Resetting all values of an array of arrays is very similar to how we do it for multidimensional arrays. In fact, we can still use an aggregate with this form: (others => (others => 0.0)).